Twelve years ago some long-distance runners in Washington, DC who were also credit union officials learned that telecommunications company Nortel Networks was ending its title sponsorship of the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. They approached the race director and found him receptive to having credit unions become the title sponsor of the popular world-class race held during Washington’s Cherry Blossom Festival.
This was a unique paradigm for the race. It wasn’t a single corporate entity with one check to disburse and one department involved in the title sponsorship activities. This was a typical collaborative credit union initiative with many people — including volunteers, staff, members, and trade association officials — who would become active in the sponsorship.
The credit union officials named the organization Credit Union Miracle Day (CUMD) and chose Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to receive all proceeds remaining after the title sponsorship costs were taken care of.
“This was a great opportunity to help kids in need, and since it’s such a highly visible event in the nation’s capital we knew it would help raise awareness of the credit union commitment to community,” says Juri Valdov, chairman at CUMD.
A Plan Evolves
The founders also saw this as the beginning of a broader vision: a “Miracle Day” with similar races held all across the country.
New features were added to the race to improve it every year. Within 10 years, a milestone was reached, with more than $5 million in donations raised for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. A lead partner — Florida-based PSCU — provided a much needed financial foundation upon which to propel the organization forward.
Fast Forward To 2011
When Diana Dykstra, president of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, accompanied a team including running enthusiast John Pamer, the CEO of Diablo Valley Federal Credit Union ($33.8M, Concord, CA), to the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, they saw firsthand how successful credit union sponsorship of a race could be.
Diana delivered the blueprints to California and found a willing race director to work with in Sacramento.
In 2012, the CUMD’s Family of Races blossomed into two events — the DC race and the new Credit Union SacTown Ten-Mile Run, complete with 32 initial credit union supporters.
“We were so impressed by the funds raised and the credit union runners and volunteers in DC, we had to replicate the run in California,” says Dykstra, who also serves on CUMD’s board. “This is one of the best examples of credit unions coming together for a common cause: our kids, our future.”
With the addition of the California run, a large check representing the collective amount raised in conjunction with all the races is now being presented to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
The Impact Is Greater Together
The CUMD board reiterated its vision at a strategic planning meeting in 2012: get states all across the country involved with charity races sponsored by credit unions. CUMD would continue to serve as a national umbrella organization that would secure the title sponsorships, and there would be local committees responsible for the activities related to the credit union race sponsorship in each state, such as running and volunteer teams, hospital liaison, and fundraising.
It became clear that credit unions would be stronger together for this cause than they would be standing (or running) alone.
What Goes Around, Comes Around
Using the model of California’s Credit Union SacTown Race Committee, currently led by Pamer, CUMD created a new Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Race Committee last year. Led by Charlie Mallon of Congressional Federal Credit Union ($735M, Washington, DC), this group is responsible for all credit union activities surrounding that specific race.
“We look forward to helping grow our local credit union community’s involvement in this fantastic cause,” says John Bratsakis, president of the Maryland & DC Credit Union Association and a new member of the committee. “One of the association’s key strategic initiatives is to look for collaborative opportunities and this is an excellent example of our credit unions coming together to make a difference.”
The Interest In State Races Grows
The Family of Races is poised to add more races in other states. It has created an infrastructure and business model for other states to use. CUMD has already heard from three states about potential races in 2014 and expects that number to grow. It can happen. A dream is coming true.
Sarah Turner is Director of Credit Union Miracle Day.The Credit Union Miracle Day Family of Races is the single largest Credit Union for Kids fundraising event and has been honored this year with the National Credit Union Foundation’s Outstanding Program Award. The Family of Races currently includes the April 7 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in Washington, DC; the April 7 Credit Union SacTown Ten-Mile Run in Sacramento, California; and two military Freedom Runs. For more information or for business partner sponsorship opportunities, visit www.miracleday.org or email email@example.com.